Four Rivers strives to preserve and share the attractions, locations, and stories that portray the history of African American Marylanders. Their legacy and struggle have been documented and preserved here in Annapolis and Anne Arundel County, allowing for visitors to experience their plight, learn about many important community members, and relive the stories that abound in our county. Even if you can’t visit in person at the moment, a number of important sites, exhibits, and memorials can be visited virtually!
Wiley H. Bates Legacy Center
The Wiley H. Bates Legacy Center honors and gives substance to the contributions of the founder, faculty, staff and students of Wiley H. Bates High School, which operated for over thirty years as the only high school for African American students in Annapolis and Anne Arundel County. The historical, cultural and educational center collects, preserves, presents, interprets and makes available for research its holdings in order to provide insight and perspective on the roles of education, economic opportunity and service for citizens of Annapolis, Anne Arundel County and other jurisdictions.
In 2018, the Kunta Kinte – Alex Haley Foundation created the documentary film, “Bates, Center of Excellence: Memories of Bates’ Teachers.” The documentary is based on the reflections and recounting of memories from interviews of 15 former teachers of Bates High School. It tells the story of Bates from the prospective of educators who had firsthand experiences in teaching at this secondary school prior to the integration of public schools in Anne Arundel County, Maryland in the mid-1960s.
Visit the Wiley H. Bates Legacy Center’s video gallery to learn more about the documentary and their organization.
Galesville Community Center
The Galesville Community Center is located in the fully-renovated, historic Rosenwald School of Galesville in South County. It began as an elementary school for African American children in 1929 as a one-room school, and expanded to a two-room school in 1931 as part of the Julius Rosenwald Program. The Julius Rosenwald Fund was responsible for the construction of 5,357 black schools by 1932. The mandate of this Fund was to provide financial and technical assistance to communities and local boards of education to enable the construction of new, state-of-the-art school buildings in 15 states in the rural south for African-American children. The school closed in 1956, as pupils were sent to the newly-desegregated county schools. In 1957, a group of residents formed a community association to save the schoolhouse.
Today, the building is an active community center, hosting a variety of events, from oral history days to historical exhibits to community gatherings. To learn more, watch this video about the Galesville Community Center.
The Banneker-Douglass Museum, named for Benjamin Banneker and Frederick Douglass, was dedicated on February 24, 1984. The original museum was housed within the former Mount Moriah African Methodist Episcopal Church in the heart of historic Annapolis. The Victorian-Gothic structure was included in the Annapolis Historic District in 1971 and placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1973. Thanks to a community-led effort to transform the former Mt. Moriah AME Church building into a museum, the BDM opened on February 24, 1984.
In light of this legacy, the museum focuses on a community-based approach to building collections and exhibition and in providing tours, public programs, and other services. Check out the Banneker-Douglass Museum YouTube page for highlights on some of their past exhibits.
Frederick Douglass Museum and Cultural Center in Highland Beach
The Frederick Douglass Museum and Cultural Center is housed in “Twin Oaks”, the summer cottage built in 1895 for Frederick Douglass. Frederick Douglass would have become a resident of Highland Beach had he not died in 1895 before the summer home, that his son Charles was building for him, was completed. When Highland Beach was incorporated in 1922, it became the first African American municipality in Maryland. It is also believed to be the first African American summer resort in the United States. Although founded as a summer resort, it is now a town of both summer and year-round.
In 1995, the State of Maryland and Anne Arundel County acquired “Twin Oaks” and deeded it to the Town of Highland Beach as a memorial to Frederick Douglass, one of Maryland’s most famous sons. To further explore, take Preservation Maryland’s video walking tour of Highland Beach.
Kunta Kinte-Alex Haley Memorial
The Kunta Kinte-Alex Haley Foundation mission is to spread Alex Haley’s vision of a world that celebrates ethnic diversity while honoring humankind’s common, universal experiences. Through educational and cultural programs, public forums and research, the Foundation is dedicated to stimulating greater interest in African-American culture, history, art, archaeology, anthropology, and genealogy, and to encouraging people of all ethnic backgrounds to search for their own “roots.” The multi-part bronze memorial at Annapolis’s City Dock includes a sculptural grouping depicting Alex Haley, author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel Roots, speaking to children about Kunta Kinte, an enslaved African brought to Annapolis in 1767 aboard the ship Lord Ligonier. The Kunta Kinte-Alex Haley Foundation has produced an introductory video about this beloved memorial.
African American Voices, Memories and Places: A Four Rivers Heritage Trail
Four Rivers has been excited to partner with Anne Arundel County’s Office of Planning and Zoning and the Lost Towns Project to create a “virtual trail” exploring our area’s African American history and heritage. This resource is entitled, “African-American Voices, Memories and Places: A Four Rivers Heritage Trail.”
The online “trail” highlights approximately 200 historic sites about African American life in Anne Arundel County’s Four Rivers Heritage Area. The project was created by local and professional historians, genealogists, and citizens. Funding was provided in part through a grant from the Maryland Heritage Areas Authority. Website visitors to the virtual heritage trail will discover local history through videos, images, and maps, sources which reveal information about the lives of African Americans in the county. Unique historic sites, places and buildings serve to document the communities and special places significant to African American heritage. The sites highlighted in this virtual trail also touch on sometimes challenging histories, which can help us all better understand both our past and the present.
We hope you enjoy these virtual visits to our area’s African American heritage and history sites, let us know if you have additional virtual experiences to share!